On Tuesday night the first and second articles of the constitutional amendment were voted on and accepted in a secret ballot. The first article passed with 347 valid votes; the second article likewise with 343 valid votes. The first amendment changes the ninth article of the Constitution to emphasize "impartiality" of courts. The second article, proposing an increase in the number of deputies in Parliament from 550 to 600, was also passed, underlining the importance of representation in proportion with the growing population.
Regarding the constitutional reform package, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has argued that a long-debated constitutional change would "strengthen the Parliament" as well as "judicial independence." Speaking in a live TV interview on Wednesday, Bozdağ discussed the ongoing parliamentary voting for changes in the current Constitution, which dates back in part to Turkey's military regime of the 1980s.
In Tuesday's first secret ballot, 347 of the assembly's 550 lawmakers voted in favor while 132 rejected the motion and 66 were absent. It changes the ninth article of the Constitution - "the judicial power shall be exercised by independent courts on behalf of the Turkish nation" - to read "independent and impartial courts." Bozdağ said it was difficult to currently say that "the legislative and the executive [are] completely independent." "Now, they will be independent," he said, adding that a real "separation of powers" would be established with the new system.
The second item of the package increases the number of lawmakers from 550 to 600 in accordance with the rising population. "Does it weaken or strengthen the Parliament to increase the number of deputies to 600?" Bozdağ asked and rejected claims from the opposition parties that the proposed changes would render Parliament inefficient. A total of 480 lawmakers took part in the second ballot. It passed with 343 votes in favor, 133 against, one abstention, two blank ballots and one invalid vote. Bozdağ announced that he also voted "yes."
"I think that adopting the presidential system would be good for a strong government, strong legislation and a strong Turkey," he said. Bozdağ added that the Parliament would "apparently" pass the entire constitutional reform with votes ranging between 340 and 350.